FOLLOWING a fairly uneventful first half between Sunderland RCA and Norton and Stockton Ancients, the game sprang to life when four goals were scored and three players were sent off.
Norton and Stockton were first to strike when Nathan Mulligan converted a 47th minute penalty and five minutes later, Sunderland RCA went two down as Shaun Clarke also found the net.
RCA then had Marc Ellison red-carded and when Mulligan was again on target, the Wearsiders faced an uphill battle.
Nathan Mulligan was then dismissed for handling on the line and Keith Graydon converted the penalty, but this was to be RCA’s only success.
Ten minutes from the end Norton went down to nine men when Craig Bishop was also shown red.
Leaders Shildon had a free day and Spennymoor Town took advantage to close the gap to a single point.
Adam Johnston, with a brace, Leon Ryan and Stephen Richardson were their match-winners at Esh Winning, who had Barry Lindoe sent off on 55 minutes.
The top-four clash between Whitley Bay and Consett went to the Seahorses, who stay in fourth place, six points adrift of the Steelmen.
Brian Smith and Paul Chow had them two goals ahead by the hour, but when Marc Walton reduced the deficit, spectators in a crowd of 624 had a nail-biting finale.
Newcastle Benfield kept alive their title chances with victory at Stokesley, where Paul Antony scored the only goal.
At the bottom, Ryton were without a fixture and are all but relegated and Esh Winning have a mountain to climb to avoid joining them in Division Two.
Several sides are looking over their shoulders and West Allotment Celtic are now back in the bottom three after going down to Bedlington Terriers, for whom Anthony Shandran rifled a hat-trick.
Chris Carr and Alex Benjamin were also on target, with Matthew Wade the only scorer for Allotment.
Stokesley are fourth from the bottom, with Jarrow Roofing just above them. Liam McBryde’s 68th-minute goal proved sufficient for South Shields in the South Tyneside derby.
Bishop Auckland are not yet out of the woods but three wins on the bounce has given them breathing space.
Damon Mullen was an early scorer for Ashington at Heritage Park before Dan Hawkins and debutant Vigan Qehaja won priceless points for Bishops, who entertain Whitley Bay tonight.
In Division Two, Seaham Red Star won the local derby at Horden CW with goals from Jonathan Monaghan (2) and Robbie Bird.
The pair remain in the bottom four and Washington are fifth from the basement following a heavy defeat by Gillford Park whose marksmen were Darran Addison (2), Michael Reid (pen) and Steve Skinner.
Three goals were scored in a 13-minutes spell when Hebburn Town edged Chester-le-Street. John Toomey forced the ball home in a goalmouth scramble and Jamie McClen conceded an own goal for Chester’s equaliser.
A minute before the interval, the Cestrians were dealt a cruel blow when Stephen Foster’s drive from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection and found its way into the net.
There’s no change at the top of the table. Leaders Newton Aycliffe took another step towards the title, defeating Brandon United with goals by Warren Byrne (2) and Ben Wood.
Guisborough Town stay second following victory against third-top North Shields, David Onions scoring the only goal.